national poultry technology center

Poultry House Generator Winterization Tips

Poultry House Generator Winterization Tips

There are many things on the modern poultry farm that should be done to prepare for cold weather. Simple things like battery connections and rodent control might seem minor until they cause a bad experience. The two pictures above are examples of those bad experiences that caused unexpected problems.  Below is a short-list of items that deserve a second look to verify the backup generator will be ready when needed this winter. Many more items could be added to this list.

  1. Battery: Most experts suggest replacing the generator battery every 2 years regardless of condition. The used battery can be transferred to other equipment that will not result in a catastrophic loss of birds if it fails. Make sure both battery connections and cables are in good shape and corrosion free. Battery conditioners are a great way to keep your battery ready for action. Don’t forget to change the batteries in the alarm and communication systems too. Don’t let a bad connection keep the generator from starting.


  1. Fuel: The condition and level of the fuel in the tank are extremely important. Many generator failures that result in bird losses are the direct result of fuel problems. Most diesel fuel problems are moisture related. Take the time to test the condition of the fuel and level to make sure you are covered here. If your tank has a bottom drain, take a fuel sample to check for water or sediment. Water indicating paste can also be used on the end of a clean dowel to detect moisture in the fuel tank if no drain is available. Keep extra fuel and several fuel filters on hand.


  1. Anti-freeze: Make sure anti-freeze inside the radiator tests below the estimated freeze range for your location plus some margin for error for unexpected colder weather. Also check to make sure there are no signs of corrosion or sediment inside the radiator. Radiators should be flushed and cleaned out about every 5 years or earlier if the coolant doesn’t look right. All hoses should be carefully inspected for cracks and wear that might cause a leak. Keep an extra gallon or two of anti-freeze on hand just in case you need it.


  1. Block Heaters: Verify the heater is doing its job at keeping the engine warm and there are no visible coolant leaks at the heater or heater hoses. Hoses on block heaters can weaken from the inside-out and cause unexpected leaks that will cause the generator to shut down unexpectedly. Don’t let a bad hose be the weak link in the backup power system.


  1. Test Run: Many growers automatically cycle the generator on a weekly basis for around 30 minutes under load to keep things in condition. We strongly recommend periodically test running the generator under load for a couple of hours to make sure the entire backup system will handle a true emergency power outage. It is a good practice to have an emergency backup plan in place so everyone (of age and responsibility) on the farm knows how to start the generator manually and transfer power if needed. Now is a good time to update your list of emergency contacts.


  1. Rodents: Maintaining a warm engine block on a generator in cold weather is important, however it can also attract rodents. They can do extensive damage to generators and transfer switches in short order and without notice. Conduct a thorough inspection of the entire generator and shed for signs of rodent presence or damage to equipment. Install bait stations inside generator sheds and keep fresh bait out to protect the generator and equipment even if no signs of rodents are present.

Good luck this winter from the Auburn NPTC. For more information on generators and other poultry house related items visit

Originally posted: National Poultry Technology Center – Auburn University – – December 2016